This time of year brings to my mind thoughts of falling leaves, pumpkins, apple cider... and community. You may be surprised to learn that you can observe real community simply by watching the geese fly overhead on a crisp Autumn day.

When you look up to the sky and see geese heading south for the winter, flying together in "V" formation, you might be interested to know what science has discovered about why they fly that way: We know that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to do it alone, and quickly gets into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front.

When the lead goose gets tired, he or she rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. Finally, when a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshots and falls out, two other geese will also fall out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly or until he is dead, and they then launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with the group.

If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other like that.

- Source Unknown

How to Build a High-Trust Leadership Team:
Three Tips for Leaders

One of the most common challenges I hear from my clients is a lack of trust among their leadership teams. It sounds something like this:

Liz, I've got a strong group of talented, experienced people on my team. Individually, they do great work. Collectively, it's a different story. Truth is, they should be contributing at a much higher level but they aren't. They just don't seem to trust each other. Communication isn't great, conflict never gets properly worked out, and they seem to prefer to work in silos rather than as a team.

Sound familiar?

It's not an uncommon problem, and it can feel downright impossible to fix. Yet the solution is surprisingly straightforward and absolutely achievable. Here's what I recommend:


Start talking to your people.
More importantly, start listening to them. Ask the right questions. What's going well within the team? How much real teamwork are you seeing? How well are you and your colleagues communicating? Is the communication clear, consistent, responsive, respectful and candid? If not, why not? Where are the problems? What would make things better? What can you do to improve the situation? What do you need from me?


Get your people talking to one another.
Set expectations of the team that go beyond individual performance. Tell them that you expect them to work collaboratively, as a team, in support of one another and toward the accomplishment of collective goals. Have them speak directly with one another in formal and informal settings. Insist that communication be open, honest, clear, kind and respectful at all times. This is a key accountability of any high performing team.


Make sure to align incentives with expectations.
If you are telling your team to work as a group, you'd better be sure there's something in it for them to do so. For example, if you've got a team of people who are being compensated solely for obtaining new clients and expanding existing business, they may find themselves competing with their peers rather than collaborating with them. If, on the other hand, there is incentive for proactive, positive communication, alignment, and progress toward mutual wins (such as, everyone being rewarded for the team's collective sales numbers), you'll find your people motivated to work together to get the job done.

None of this, I assure you, is beyond reach. But it will require your concerted effort and consistency.

If your team is entrenched in patterns that permit or even encourage poor communication, misalignment, and mistrust, you may want to engage in a team "reset." I recently assisted one of my clients in conducting a team reset session designed to clearly lay out expectations, address questions, invite concerns, and establish new group operating norms and accountabilities. It was a highly successful kickoff to a new order of business.

So take some time to reflect upon your own team. How much trust do your team members place in one another - and in you? You may very well need to address this issue head-on, to ensure the kind of full engagement, commitment, collaboration and high-level performance that you, your team, and your organization deserve.

All the best,  


Liz Bywater, PhD 
President, Bywater Consulting Group 
Join the conversation
Follow us on Twitter View our profile on LinkedIn
Quick Links
Fast Company on executive coaching
Client results
Rave reviews
Execsense Webinar: Mastering Conflict
For additional helpful tips on harnessing conflict, download our webinar today!

Want to learn more?

For additional information on how we can help you become a more effective and successful leader, or to inquire about any of our consulting or coaching services, send us an email or give us a call at 800.846.4546. 
We look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, please
visit us any time!

Copyright 2014. Liz Bywater, PhD. Bywater Consulting Group, LLC. All rights reserved.